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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

UK: Asylum

Britain continued to debate whether a new asylum law was needed. The research director of the immigration service union that represents immigration inspectors predicted that the number of asylum seekers would reach 90,000 in 1999, compared to 46,000 in 1998. There is a backlog of 90,000 asylum applications and the government in September 1999 announced that no more Kosovar Albanians would be granted temporary protected status. A total of 7,120 asylum applications were received in August 1999, setting a new monthly record. Most of August's applications were received in-country, rather than at the port of entry, which suggests that many were illegal immigrants who had been smuggled into the country.

If the proposed new asylum law is adopted, asylum seekers would be dispersed around the country while their asylum claims are being considered. Currently, 80 percent of the asylum seekers are in London. If approved by Parliament, the bill would become law in late 1999 and the dispersal program would begin in April 2000.

Another part of the bill would levy carrier sanctions on trucks coming from Europe found to be carrying unauthorized aliens. A two-day sweep in Dover resulted in the detention of 140 illegal immigrants, many of whom were hidden in the back of trucks arriving from France. In 1998, 3,212 illegal immigrants were arrested in Dover.

One hundred law firms are being banned from offering immigration advice to asylum-seekers and other foreigners, as the British government attempts to crack down on lawyers who take advantage of foreigners trying to remain in the UK.

Home Secretary Jack Straw reversed a decision to deport a Nigerian-born commodities broker who has lived his entire adult life in Britain. A high court judge in September had ordered Home Secretary Jack Straw to reconsider the decision to deport him.

The Nigerian, now 31, was abandoned by his parents in London at the age of 14. The judge said it was "most unfortunate" that the decision to deport him had been made in June without new material in the case being considered. Straw concluded that the man was not abandoned by his parents when they stopped sending him funds in 1985 and that he managed to stay in Britain for 16 years through repeated appeals of immigration decisions. The chair of the Commission for Racial Equality said that the deportation could have a damaging effect on British race relations.

"Asylum applications rise," BBC News, September 28, 19999. Frances Gibb, "100 'asylum firms' banned," The Times, September 1, 1999. "Straw backs down over deportation," Evening Standard, September 9, 1999. Alan Travis, "Straw told to review broker's expulsion," The Guardian, September 9, 1999. "Czech Press Survey," CTK National News Wire, September 8, 1999. John Steele, "Mafia-style Albanian gangs pose a threat to Britain," Daily Telegraph, September 7, 1999. "Asylum seekers may be housed in 'transit center,' Agence France Presse, September 7, 1999. John Steele, "Police target Dover in crackdown on illegal immigrants," Telegraph, September 3, 1999. "UK seeks to disperse refugees from south-east," Reuters, September 3, 1999.